I wanted to start off the year with a series of “New Year, new you” posts focusing on positive ways to improve your life in 2016. But then I came across an article in the January 7 online issue of The National Post called, “Can an affair save a marriage?”
Apparently, websites for cheaters report this as being their busiest time of year, with a 30 percent increase in memberships. The article goes on to say, and I quote: “But do such flings necessarily signal the end of a marriage? Increasingly, some experts believe that an affair—when handled correctly—can actually revive dying relationships, giving the unfaithful partner an outlet for frustration while allowing families to stay together.”
Excuse me for veering off course here, but I’m getting really worked up. How do you handle an affair correctly? Is there ever a right way to betray another human being? Is there actually a good way to make someone feel completely worthless and unlovable? To burden them with lifelong self-esteem and trust issues? What kind of perverse researcher, except one hoping to make a splash, would go so far as to surmise that cheating on your partner might improve a marriage? Who puts money toward these studies? Ashley Madison? What kind of person who spent their life pursuing their PhD would waste their time researching the benefits of cheating? Again, seriously?
According to the article, in 2008, U.S. marriage therapist Mira Kirshenbaum claimed in her book, When Good People Have Affairs, that the “right kind” of fling could “jolt people from their inertia.” She says that affairs can succeed only if they are kept secret; cheats can never alleviate guilt by confessing, nor must they view their lover as a potential second spouse.
French psychologist Maryse Valiant, in Men, Love, Fidelity, writes that couples would be happier if they acknowledged that men needed “breathing space,” and that the “pact of fidelity was cultural not natural.” The National Post article even quotes relationship counsellor Paula Hall as saying, “Dishonesty causes considerably more damage to marriages than anything else.” At the same time, she believes that an open relationship can work. “If your contract of fidelity to each other doesn’t include sexual behaviour, then there’s not a problem.”
Is marriage really that outdated of a concept? Is it really so easy to recite your vows but that hard to keep them? It’s articles like these that perpetuate the idea among cheaters that cheating is acceptable. That there’s a successful way to do it. That infidelity is their only option. That it’s somehow justified for one reason or another.
My 2016 advice: keep your pants zipped up and don’t give your heart away to the first girl who looks your way. Cheating is not okay. Seriously.